Author tutorials

How to submit a journal article manuscript

How to submit a journal article manuscript

You’ve done your research, analyzed your data, and evaluated your hypotheses. So now you’re ready to publish your results. Peer review and publishing are necessary steps to validate your results, share your work with the scholarly community, and earn recognition for your work. 

But how do you decide which journals to select? How can you ensure your best chance of having your manuscript accepted with a minimum of hassle? Do you really need to have a cover letter? How do you respond to reviewers? You will find the answers to all these questions and more in this tutorial. We will guide you through the publication process; from choosing a journal to revising all the way through the peer review process. 

By the end of this tutorial you should: 

  • know how to select a suitable journal for your manuscript 
  • understand how editors assess your work 
  • Know your options—including transfers, revisions, and resubmission—in case of rejection 
  • have an overview of the peer review process and how to respond to reviewers

You will also have the opportunity to test your learning by completing a quiz at the end.

Journal selection and submission

Developing a submission plan

While no one likes to think about rejection, many article submissions do get rejected the first time around. Knowing this, it’s a good idea to think ahead about which other journals you might choose in case your first choice does reject your submission. You can use our Journal Submission Planner PDF (in the column to the right) to help you chart out your plan.

Transfer processes

Some major publishers, including Springer Nature, as well as other larger publishers, offer a transfer service for rejected submissions. These services help authors find suitable journals from among the other titles they publish, and help reduce the time and effort it takes to resubmit. You can keep these services in mind when developing your submission plan, by considering a list of journals from the same publisher. You can learn more about Springer Nature’s particular approach to transfers, and you can also watch the video below.

How to use the Transfer Desk

Journal Submission Plan
Journal Submission Plan
(PDF, 913.38 KB)

Choosing a journal

Submitting a manuscript to an unsuitable journal will result in editors rejecting the manuscript without even sending it for peer review—it wastes both yours and the editors’ time. A good time to start thinking about what journal is suitable for your work is after you have collected enough results for a publication and have evaluated the level of impact of your research, but before you start writing your manuscript. Choosing a journal that matches your work is therefore very important because it makes it more likely that your manuscript will be accepted.

Some factors to consider when choosing a journal to submit to are:

  • The journal’s target audience. If your study has broad implications that may be of interest to researchers in other fields, a journal that covers a wide range of topics may be best. On the other hand, if only researchers in your field are likely to want to read your study, then a specialized journal would be more appropriate as you will reach your intended audience directly.
  • The topics the journal publishes. The Aims and Scope of the journal should indicate the topic areas the journal is willing to consider. If your research is applied, you should target a journal that publishes applied science; if it is clinical, you should target a clinical journal; if it is basic research, you should target a journal that publishes basic research.
  • The types of articles the journal publishes. For example, if you want to publish a Review Article, find out whether the journal publishes these.
  • Length restrictions. Does the journal limit the number of words or figures in the articles it publishes? Can your manuscript meet its requirements?
  • Reputation of the journal. A journal’s Impact Factor is only one measure of its reputation, and not always the most important. You need to consider the prestige of the authors that publish in the journal and whether the journal is well known in your specific field; sometimes the most highly regarded journals in a field are not those with the highest Impact Factor. You can also look at the journal’s other metrics, including (but not limited to) social media and other mentions (i.e., via Altmetric.com); speed of publication, and more. 
  • Where the journal is indexed. You want your work to be as discoverable as possible. One way readers find relevant research papers is by using indexing sites and databases such as PubMed, Scopus or Web of Science. If there is a particular database that is used extensively by your peers it may be worth checking if the journal is indexed in it so that your work can be found easily.
  • Compliance with funder mandates. Many funding bodies now mandate that research funded by them is made open access. This can be done in several ways but the most common is depositing your article in a repository or publishing open access. Check that journal policies allow you to comply with your funder requirements.

Other factors to consider: Does the journal usually publish articles quickly; is the “time to publication” important for you? What kind of peer review does the journal offer? What financial costs are involved?

Start with what you read

When looking for suitable journals in which to publish your own results, start with what you have read. You should already be familiar with published studies that are similar to yours. Which journal were those studies published in? You might even see patterns of journals among the articles you’re planning to list in your manuscript’s reference list. The same journals may be appropriate for your manuscript, so make a list of them. If you need more journals to consider, you can do literature searches for other published articles in your field that are similar in scope and impact on the field, and see where they were published.

Instructions for authors

When you have a list of potential target journals, visit and read the websites for these journals. Every journal should have a page that provides instructions or guidelines for authors, including information on many of the factors listed above.

You shouldn’t bother considering journals that are not a match for your manuscript based on the criteria we’ve just discussed. Among the remaining journals, it is likely that one or more will stand out as a very good candidate. Consider if any additional experiments will give you a better chance of achieving publication in your top choice. If you are in a hurry to publish, consider which of the remaining journals offers rapid publication; if none do, consider which has the highest publication frequency. If your main goal is to reach as many readers as possible, strongly consider candidate journals that provide an open access option. Open access allows anyone to read your article, free of charge, online, which can make your article more likely to be read and cited.

When you have chosen the journal you think is the best fit for your study and your goals, it is usually a good idea to also identify your second- and third-choice journals. That way, if your paper is rejected from your first-choice journal, you can quickly submit to your second-choice journal. See above for advice on developing a submission plan for your paper. 

Next: What editors want

We hope that with this tutorial you have a clearer idea of the best ways to prepare your manuscript for submission and craft an efficient and effective submission plan!

If you feel that you would like some further support with writing your paper and planning the best ways to choose journals to submit it to, Springer Nature offer some services which may be of help.

  • Nature Research Editing Service offers high quality  English language and scientific editing. During language editing, Editors will improve the English in your manuscript to ensure the meaning is clear and identify problems that require your review. With Scientific Editing experienced development editors will improve the scientific presentation of your research in your manuscript and cover letter, if supplied. They will also provide you with a report containing feedback on the most important issues identified during the edit, as well as journal recommendations.
  • Our affiliates American Journal Experts also provide English language editing* as well as other author services that may support you in preparing your manuscript.
  • We provide both online and face-to-face training for researchers on all aspects of the manuscript writing process.

* Please note, using an editing service is neither a requirement nor a guarantee of acceptance for publication.